Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour (as Haifaa Al Mansour)
Writer: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Stars: Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdullrahman Al Gohani
Run Time: 98 min
There is something about going into a movie (or book) with no expectations that makes the experience special. When I saw the preview for Wadjda, it intrigued me so I put it in my Netflix queue and forgot about it until it arrived. I had no intention of writing a review, but the understated quality of this film stuck with me.
An enterprising Saudi girl signs on for her school’s Koran recitation competition as a way to raise the remaining funds she needs in order to buy the green bicycle that has captured her interest.
Wadjda is a Saudi girl who wants a bicycle. Bikes aren’t toys for girls, she is told, her virtue could be ruined. That doesn’t stop her. She sells bracelets to her schoolmates, which are forbidden. She delivers notes for the older girls – for a price. Her entrepreneurial endeavors land her in trouble with the head of the school, Ms. Hussa. But when she learns a Koran recitation competition with a cash prize could make her dream come true, she devotes herself to learning and perfecting the recitation.
Her mother is preoccupied with keeping her husband from taking a second wife. Wadjda watches her mother struggle and hoards the affection she rarely receives from her father. What she sees and what she knows, conflict. The cultural differences are so enormous that it was disconcerting to watch at times. I think there are subtleties ingrained in this film that I didn’t fully understand.
When the credits began to roll I imagined Wadjda becoming a trailblazer, bucking the system at every turn and being true to herself. I want to know the details of the rest of her life. I want her to be extraordinary.
Wadjda is a beautiful film.